Crop Plan (Week 12, the end of our project )


For the past 3 months, we have worked very closely with Joey and learned more about the influence of urban farming on the West End community. Prior to the beginning our project, we did not realize that community food insecurity existed to the extent that it does in the West End, as we stereotyped this area to contain mostly well-off, middle to upper-class residents. After spending several hours working at Gordon Neighbourhood House, we gained insight on how the GNH’s several food initiatives contribute to alleviating this insecurity. As our group members come from a wide range of backgrounds, we all found it very interesting to learn about urban farming and crop planning. We learned to appreciate the logistics and considerations that go into creating a successful crop plan that maximizes the yield and quality of healthy, fresh produce for the community. We shared our experiences with the LFS 350 students and faculty, as well as other community partners on Monday through our infographics presentation in order to promote the understanding of how a crop plan is designed for urban farming. With our newfound knowledge, we can all start growing produce in our own backyard!

We enjoyed urban farming!


           A moment of significance that recently occurred in our group was when we received feedback from our professor, Will, about the infographic we designed for our final presentation. Initially, we put a lot of focus on how we designed our crop plan and the ways it contributes to community food security, rather than providing context about GNH and the West End. We were also repetitive with our take-home messages, restating our methods for designing the crop plans instead of putting focus on why crop plans were important in achieving our objectives. Will allowed us to realize that the crop plans were meant to help the GNH maximize crop yields, which in turn allowed the GNH to address community food security in the West End. As we didn’t initially make that connection, it was a bit difficult for us to make the direct link between crop plan to community food security, and our initial infographic was rather vague and unfocused.


So what

Our moment of significance gave us a lot of insight as to how our community project actually fits within the concepts and discussions that we’ve had in the lectures this term. Having just completed our tasks for the project, our group was very excited about our work and the future for the GNH urban farm plots, and by focusing on communicating this, we were distracted from our overall message and goals. We had to change our focus to how our project contributed to community food security rather than discussing the details about how we went about completing our project and the final results of our plans. Having spent hours and hours on the project with Joey discussing the crop plans in great detail, it started to feel as though we were becoming a broken record, and we began to forget that the other students in our class had been working on completely different projects. The students and faculty that we presented to likely would not know much about the GNH or the West End, nor would they understand the concepts we were explaining in the same depth that we did. Will’s feedback urged us to think about what was most important in our process and accomplishments by reminding us to return to our original objectives, as well as what effects we hoped our actions would have on the GNH and the surrounding community. We needed to pare down what we wanted to express and decide what was most important to discuss, finding a succinct and eloquent way to do so.

Our moment of significance reminded us to take a step back from the project, and although at first our project did not seem to have clear connections with the concepts we were learning about in lecture, it forced us to think critically and make larger associations between sustainable crop planning and the concepts of food justice and community food security. By providing more context on the GNH, as well as how our communication with Joey helped us design our crop plans, we were more effective in helping the audience understand how our crop planning project would contribute to improving community food security.

The infographic on our crop plan project

Struggling through the process of making our infographics clearer and more succinct was integral to helping our group find the true connections between lecture concepts and our community project. In a Ted Talk, Tim Harford (2016) discusses that while  it can often feel as though messy problems are simply obstacles standing in the way of our success, we don’t realize that this uncertainty can actually make our problem-solving skills more robust and our ideas more creative. Therefore, we can appreciate the challenges that we had to face while working on our infographic, and we believe that it gave us a good opportunity to reflect on our original project objective. It also taught us how to better deliver our experiences and knowledge to a general audience more effectively.

Another problem that we encountered was trying to decide what concepts to prioritize in our infographic, since we wanted to present our ideas in a concise way. Our group members had different perspectives regarding this problem (e.g. some people wanted to introduce the West End community and its food security while others wanted to focus more on the GNH itself). Even though we had to overcome the disagreement and communicate to reach a consensus, this process allowed us to appreciate diversity. Diversity helped us view the problem from different perspectives and how we can improve the quality of our content by collaborating and incorporating different ideas. Furthermore, as we considered the perspectives of the other LFS 350 students and faculty members, we realized that we needed to simplify our presentation and avoid speaking in too much detail, since they did not have as much insight or perspective into the topic as we did. By including the diverse perspectives of our group members and considering the perspectives of our audience, we were able to create a better product. This is just like what Katherine Phillips mentioned in her article, How Diversity Makes us Smarter. “Diversity works by promoting hard work and creativity; the pain associated with diversity can be thought of as the pain of exercise” (Phillips, 2014).

Practicing our presentation in Nest


Now what

           Since the very beginning of our project, our group had trouble making strong connections between crop planning and community food security. We tried to develop coherent linkages to the course materials in past blog assignments, but we failed to look at the bigger picture and include the context of the GNH’s role in the West End community. Receiving feedback from Will helped shift our focus back into the right direction, allowing us to be confident and prepared for writing our final project report. Moving forward, we will use this feedback and advice to maintain our focus on the most important aspects of our project. Our final report must critically analyze the connections between food, health, and the environment within food security discourse, and how food insecurity can be addressed by interdisciplinary efforts. Hence, it requires that we understand and portray the connection between our project within broader food system theories. In order to achieve this goal and write a successful and comprehensive report, it is important that we take Will’s advice into consideration, as well as the questions that we received during our infographic presentation. This will allow us to communicate the most important aspects of our project, our objectives and the broader food systems. We were faced with confusion about our project throughout the semester since our project seemed to be different from other groups’, but Joey was truly integral in helping us gain understanding and insight on the concepts. We plan to maintain contact with Joey, and maybe even volunteer during the upcoming growing season. It would be incredible to see how our project is actually being carried out and contributing to the organization.  



In conclusion, this was a very interesting project to work on for this course, and we are sad to see it come to an end. Our group comes from a very diverse range of academic backgrounds, and this was helpful because it allowed us to integrate different points of views in the way that we approached the challenges we encountered throughout the term. We definitely faced some moments of uncertainty, and at times, it was frustrating because we were struggling to find ways to connect our project with the course content which made it difficult to understand the purpose of our project. For future students who are coming into a similar project like this one, we would like to advise them to come up with questions regarding the connections between the project and course materials prior to coming to each class. Through these questions, they are able to consult with the TA or the instructor to ensure that they have the right focus when developing the proposal or the infographics. 

Our group greatly appreciates the support and input that our head farmer, Joey, provided us. We definitely all agree that this project would have been much more difficult and taken a very different direction without her help. We have grown our understanding regarding community gardens and how they can be utilized (as GNH does) to supply food for other affordable food initiatives within a community to improve community food security. After finishing the project, the next step for us is to take the valuable knowledge of crop planning as well as our understanding of community food security and food justice to help promote more food initiatives to benefit more communities and people. The next step for GNH is to implement the crop plan, but also willing to alter the plans as they seem fit as unpredictable problems may arise during the growing season.

Overall, giving our final presentation to the faculty and other students was a pivotal moment for all of us. We really enjoyed working with the GNH for the past few months, and will keep these memories and experiences with us for the rest of our lives.




Harford, T. (2016, Jan 11). Tim Harford: How messy problems can inspire creativity [Video file]. Retrieved from

Phillips, K. (2014, October 1). How Diversity Makes us Smarter. Retrieved from

Crop Plan (week 9)


It’s unbelievable that we’re already heading towards the end of our CBEL project! During the tutorial session, our group had a chance to reflect back and evaluate our overall performance from the beginning of the term to the present. We all agreed that we have done and gained so much more than we initially expected. Crop planning sounds simple at first, but in reality is extremely complex, involving holistic perspectives and aspects that need to be considered. Due to Joey’s gracious guidance and support, we have successfully achieved our goals. After weeks of working on the crop plans, we have begun preparing the plots themselves for the upcoming growing season.   

This post will take you through a quick summary of our achievements and experiences since our last post, as well as some thoughts on our remaining time in the project.


Weekly Objectives

Our weekly objectives since the first draft of our second blog post have been:

Feb 25 – Mar 3: Submit our second blog post and receive feedback.

Mar 4 – 10: Have our third meeting with Joey, complete all crop plans and help physically prepare the farm plots. Edit our second blog post and begin writing our third.



We began our third meeting by sorting out Joey’s seed box, removing seeds that were too old to sprout and organizing them into vegetable/herb groups. Additionally, we managed to finalize the Jervis location crop plan. This location receives the least amount of sunlight among all of GNH’s plots, so Joey mainly wanted to plant herbs and salad greens here. It seems that these plants grow very well in shaded and cool conditions (J. Liu, personal communication, March 5, 2018). We also visited some of the plots and harvested vegetables and herbs to be used in the GNH kitchen and Farmer’s market, such as salad greens and parsley. The group visited the Crystal Court location and helped prepare the site for the upcoming growing season by removing cover crops, chopping bean leaves and tilling the soil in order to return nitrogen into the soil. We also almost completed the Nicola location crop plan, however, ran out of time and could not visit the site to confirm some final details, so it is the only crop plan that we have left to finalize. We will be meeting with Joey one last time to complete this crop plan. All in all, this was a very productive meeting! It felt really good to finally see the project coming together, and to physically see the plots be prepared for our plans.  

Sorting out a bag of seeds


Harvesting leafy greens at Jervis Garden


Removing cover crops at Nicola Garden

Even though we didn’t necessarily meet any concrete failures over the course of our project, our group has faced some huge uncertainties, both involving our academic performance and the project itself. Additionally, Joey has met and resolved many uncertainties and setbacks from her previous urban farming experiences. For example, the reason we were asked to sort and discard the seeds harvested before 2015 was because when Joey had previously tried to plant older seeds, she found that they couldn’t grow well. This caused her to waste time and space that could have been devoted to other crops. Even though we were not doing a “premortem” like what was discussed in the “Failure is Your Friend” podcast, we were able to draw lessons from previous experiences and “spot the potential failures before things have gone wrong” (Cohn, 2014).

At this time, our crop plan is mostly finished, however, we are aware that there will be a lot of uncertainties when the crop plan is actually being executed. Unfortunately, this won’t be a part of our project. The manual that we used to decide what crops to plant, when to sow, etc. is based on general coastal BC weather, but there are many potential variables (e.g. soil condition, humidity, sunlight etc.) that may result in a different growth pattern of crops in our three garden sites. This is similar to Dan Barber’s story in the This American Life podcast, “Poultry Slam” (Glass, 2011), which tells us that it is normally difficult to replicate other people’s operational models in different environmental settings, especially when it comes to dealing with nature which always “has its own idea.” Joey has prior experience with urban farming, so hopefully these variables will not provide many setbacks for this growing season. Since we are planning on having at least one more meeting with her, we can also assess the plots and provide any changes that might be necessary, and hopefully, some of our group members will be able to keep in contact with Joey and the GNH to provide volunteer work over the season.


Moment of Significant Change Workshop

During our session 8 tutorial, we were asked to reflect on our experiences with the CBEL project in the past few months. We were also instructed to individually graph the progression of our knowledge/skills and emotions regarding the project, and then we were asked to construct two comprehensive graphs illustrating these as a group. Overall, we felt that this was a very important workshop, as it allowed us to really reflect on the time we’ve spent working on this project, how much we’ve learned and achieved, and the emotions that we’ve experienced from the start of the term to now. In addition, this was a chance for us to really be able to share our personal experiences regarding the project within our group, and it turned out that there were some similarities and some differences within the group. For example, a couple of us were unable to attend the second meeting with our community partner, Joey, and those individuals felt slightly lost about the project, wishing they were able to contribute more. However, these negative feelings were addressed as we made plans to and actually went to meet Joey a third time. After finalizing the crop plan for the Jervis location and helping out with plot preparations, we’re now feeling more confident about finishing up our project.

In addition to reflecting on the time we’ve spent so far on the project, we also came up with a projected section of the graph that represents how we believe the next couple of weeks will unfold, as well as how we hope to wrap up our project at the end of the term.


Shown above is the group graph plotting our emotions and our knowledge and skills over the course of the term. The smiley face indicates a high positive feeling/sense of knowledge and the sad face indicates a low negative feeling/sense of knowledge. Some key points are described below:

  • At the beginning of the term, we were feeling overall quite positive and excited about our GNH Crop Plan project, although most of us were from food science major and were not very knowledgeable about urban agriculture, or what the project would really entail.
  • We had a better idea of what was expected of us in this project after our 1st meeting with Joey. However, both curves dropped slightly after writing our 1st blog post and receiving feedback for it because we noticed that we were still confused about some concepts we learned from class (e.g. food justice and community food security).
  • Notably, we hit a low point in both curves during our first Moment of Significance, which was when we were working on our Proposal Outline and Report, as this was when we really realized that we had been focusing on the wrong area, learning that we should have been focused on creating a suitable crop plan to increase community food security, rather than trying to integrate too many components from our course materials and making the scope of our project too broad and unfocused.
  • For those of us that attended the 2nd meeting with Joey, a lot more knowledge was gained and there was an overall positive feeling about the project, as we managed to come up with the plan for Crystal Court, which was the most challenging garden to plan.
  • Our overall feelings soared over reading break, as we were all excited for this time to be away from school, although our knowledge and skills stayed stagnant as we didn’t meet with Joey or do too much work on the project.
  • Then, from writing our 2nd blog post up until today, both graphs sat at a slightly lower level to reflect our slight dread at writing blog posts as well as our uncertainty about whether we approached our Moment of Significance properly.

In the projected section of our graph, we expected our 3rd meeting with Joey to go very well (and it did!), and we expected to feel a bit clueless about writing this current blog. However, after receiving feedback from our 2nd blog, we are a bit more confident about what is expected from us. We may feel a bit reluctant about creating our infographics and expect that we’ll feel pretty in the dark prior to the workshop. We’re all a bit nervous about the presentation that is coming up, but we’re hoping that by that point, we will be very knowledgeable about our project! We’re also feeling pretty positive overall about our 4th and last blog post, and definitely expect to finish this term off on a high note.


Upcoming Objectives

During our past visit at the GNH this Monday, we were able to complete our most of the remaining two crop plans, which essentially means that we have finished our entire CBEL project. We still plan on visiting the GNH at least one more time to assist Joey in harvesting and preparing the plots for seeding, but that will be it for our actual Community Project. The end of the term seems to be coming very quickly, and we are sad to see it finish so soon!


As for the course, we are entering the final stage of the term, which means that we need to start thinking about working on our final report, presentation and infographic as a group, and individually work on our Academic and Experiential Review papers.


Mar 11 – 17: Anticipating another meeting with Joey to prepare the Nicola site. Will edit our third blog post after receiving feedback.

Mar 18 -24: Work on our final presentation and infographic.

Mar 25 – 31: Present our community project and write our last blog post for the semester.


Graceful Dismount

With the completion of our Community Project and the end of the school year, it is time for our group to begin our “Graceful Dismount.” We must take what we have learned in our readings, lectures, and tutorials, and reflect on the work that we have done at the Gordon Neighbourhood House. Completing our Community Project was an eye-opening experience that was very valuable in showing us how much time and energy is put into supporting communities, and we will be sure to carry these experiences with us as we continue our journeys as citizens and academics in the food system.


In our first flexible learning session (session 3), we watched a couple of videos concerning partnerships and the patronizing and paternalistic nature of Western “aid” (Yakini, 2013), (Sirolli, 2012). We want to ensure that we do not simply enter and exit this project with a saviour complex, simply leaving when our job is done and forgetting about the people that the GNH is serving and the reasons for our work. LFS 350 is set up in a way that will allow us to remain connected with our work even after completing the project, with the final presentation and report allowing us to reflect on it. Furthermore, we are able to use our experiences as a stepping stone for continuing similar work either at GNH, other neighbourhood houses or similar organizations. Working at the GNH has given us a better perspective of what resources organizations are in need of, whether that be time, physical labour, food, etc. Pablo, one of our group members, actually lives in the West End, and has done some volunteer work there prior to our project, and plans on continuing to do so after we complete our project time with them. As for the rest of our group, we can use our newfound experiences and information to better serve our own communities in the future and to increase awareness of the issues that we have been working on.



At this point of time, it is really important to look both backward and forward so that we can reflect on our past activities and experiences to better achieve our future goals. Making the reflective graphs during tutorial was really interesting and insightful, helping us trace the fluctuations in our emotions and knowledge during different events and tasks. Despite these fluctuations and uncertainties, we have successfully completed all of our goals on time so far and met our expectations due to the active support provided by Joey. Even though we are very proud of our achievements thus far, we are still a bit worried about the uncertainties that GNH may be facing following the execution of our crop plans, therefore it is also important for us to keep in touch with Joey and provide assistance during growing and harvesting season when needed. We have a laundry list of assignments and projects about the CBEL project to complete in the next few weeks, so it is time to start buckling down and focusing on these, as well!



Cohn, G. (2014, June 5). Failure Is Your Friend: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast. Retrieved March 9th, 2018 from

Glass, I. (2011, December 2). Poultry Slam 2011. Retrieved March 9th, 2018 from

Sirolli, E. [TED]. (2012, November 26). Want to help someone? Shut up and listen [Video File]. Retrieved March 9th, 2018 from

Yakini, M. [LivableFutureBlog]. (2013, May 3). Working in communities as partners, not missionaries [Video File]. Retrieved March 9th, 2018 from

Crop Plan (week 8)



Have you ever thought about the work that goes into creating a crop plan, or do you think gardening is simply planting and harvesting what you want to eat?


Well, it turns out that there is more to it than what meets the eye. Over the past few weeks, we have learned about the logistics of urban crop planning on a semi-large scale. There were numerous factors that we had to consider when planning crops for the Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), such as companion planting, crop rotation, sunlight availability, and amount of time/resources required to care for the individual crops. It is important to take all of these factors into account and determine the most suitable seeds to plant in the unique conditions of each individual sites. It was definitely a hard task, but we have learned to appreciate the work that farmers put in to harvest organic produce for the community!


Check out our Proposal Report for our project!



Weekly objectives:

It has been about a month since our initial visit at the GNH, and our group has had a number of objectives for the project during this time. Our weekly objectives since our first visit at the GNH are as follows:

Jan. 21 – 27: Research and learn about the GNH and the West End Community before beginning our project. Complete our first draft of the first blog post.

Jan. 28 – Feb. 3: Edit and rewrite our blog post to suit the requirements of the assignment. Begin planning the Proposal Report for the project by creating an outline.

Feb. 4 – Feb. 10: Reconfigure the Proposal Report upon receiving comments and advice from our TA and classmates, and hand in a final draft. Additionally, visit the GNH and begin working with Joey.

Feb. 11 – Feb. 17: Plan out the timeline of the project for the rest of the term.

Feb. 18 – Feb. 24: Write our second blog post.



One of our biggest achievements so far is the completion of one of the three crop plans, for the Crystal Court location. This location is the largest and most complex out of the three due to the fact that it receives the most sunlight. As a result of the sun intensity, the more difficult (sun-loving) crops needed to be planted in this location, such as zucchini, beans and greens. Most of the sun-loving crops are considered to be summer crops and require a greater degree of care and time. While other crops can be grown for the first or second half of the growing season (spring and fall crops, respectively), summer crops take up the majority of the growing season (J. Liu, personal communication, February 15, 2018). Furthermore, these crops are the highest in demand for the kitchen and farmers’ market, so Joey wanted to emphasize growing as much of these as possible. We finalized the outline for the spring, summer, and fall seasons following Joey’s list of highly requested crops. To complete this task we needed to take into consideration what had been grown in the previous few seasons and choose different, complementary crops for a crop rotation scheme. We also included companion planting into the plans to maximize beneficial interactions between the crops. We managed to complete crops for all three seasons for this location in one meeting and it was beyond rewarding to finalize the plan. It served as a guideline for what to expect for the other locations, and it was good to see all of the implications for making sure the crops we choose thrive, not only as individual crops, but in conjunction with their surroundings and across seasons.


Spring crop plan for Crystal Court garden


Summer crop plan for Crystal Court garden


Fall crop plan for Crystal Court garden


Some resources that we used in planning which crops we planted, as well as when and where we planted them

Gardening and urban farming is often associated with the well-off, white, middle class, being included in the alternative food narrative (Slocum, 2007) that was di discussed in session 8. This gives the essence of our project a sense of privilege, despite the fact that the GNH works to serve the vulnerable and underprivileged people in its community. We believe that the GNH does a good job of using urban agriculture to serve its entire community through its food philosophies overall (Gordon Neighbourhood House, n.d.), although there are still aspects of this that we must think critically about.


We were glad to learn from Joey, the head farmer at GNH and an Asian female, that people of different races have been actively participating in the community garden program. However, very few low-income people are involved in the program, mainly due to their lack of time. It should be noted that low-income families make up a staggering 32.8% of the West End community (City of Vancouver, 2012). Single mothers are also often excluded due to the burdens of poverty and raising kids. This situation is discussed in Miewald & Ostry’s (2014) article that we read in session 4, which states that time and money are both barriers that prevent people with lower incomes from accessing healthy food or the resources to provide them with food aid.


The Gordon Neighbourhood House tries to address this issue through the implementation of food initiatives such as the community lunch program and affordable farmers’ markets as a way to serve people who lack the time to cook or access to nutritious food. However, it is not clear to us whether this has successfully addressed this issue, because these pay-what-you-can community meals and farmers markets are still very Western practices that might not be welcoming to people of colour, as discussed in Gibb and Wittman’s paper (2013) that we read for session 8.


As mentioned in our first blog post, through assisting the GNH in establishing a successful crop plan and preparing its urban farm plots, we originally aimed to contribute to its efforts in decreasing food insecurity in marginalized people such as low-income people and people of color, thereby increasing the overall community food security of the West End. However, as we realized that food injustice might not be effectively addressed by the GNH’s initiatives, we are wondering how influential our project will be in contributing to community food security. These have been some “sticky” moments for us as a group, and hopefully, we can gain some clarity on these issues as the term goes on by further discussing them with our community partner, doing research and spending more time unpacking these issues in lectures and tutorials.


Moment of significance:

Our group’s first moment of significance this term came upon receiving comments and suggestions for our Proposal Report from our TA and classmates. As we were writing our first draft of our outline for this report, we were focusing on examples provided in lecture and tutorial, and tried to integrate aspects from class readings and past class materials. We ended up establishing objectives that were far too broad and idealistic for a project of our size and timeframe. This translated into our methods being unfocused and vague, and gave the proposal an overall sense of ambiguity.



Some of the components that we tried to integrate into our proposal outline included food sovereignty, food literacy, and community food security. For example, we tried to come up with links to food literacy and planned on conducting surveys to get a better idea of the degree of food insecurity in the West End, as well as how much food insecure residents of the West End were truly benefiting from the services provided by the GNH. This is because we saw that a lot of other groups were planning on conducting surveys and focusing on food literacy. However, our TA, Colin pointed out to us that this might be a bit too much to address in our project, and that conducting those surveys wouldn’t directly relate to our objectives. Most importantly, we were losing focus on the main purpose of our project, which was to come up with a crop plan that would increase the community food security of the West End.


So What:

Since we did not realize that our project was quite specific and straightforward compared to many other groups’, we incorporated many concepts relating to the food system into our project originally. Writing the proposal report was crucial in helping us realize that our goals were too broad and impractical. By reflecting on our duties in this project, which came down to assist in the design of a crop plan for three garden sites. We were able to narrow down our objective to performing a site assessment of the three sites to create feasible crop plans. If we had continued with our original objectives and goals, we would have been too focused on food literacy and surveying to dedicate enough time to actually creating the crop plan, prepping the farm sites for gardening, and considering how our project can contribute to community food security. This moment of significance provided us with a clearer understanding of our project and trajectory, hopefully leading to a more efficient execution of the project and ultimately helping us obtain better results. It also gave us a greater sense of motivation and inspiration in proceeding with the actual tasks of the project. This moment of significance gave us an opportunity to “catch and release” in terms of our perspectives and abilities, and helped us come to a better understanding of how we should be applying what we have learned in lectures and tutorials.


Now What:

Through our completed proposal report, we have simplified our project to focus on planning crops for GNH’s three urban farm sites in the West End. Appropriate design is essential in order to minimize external inputs and maximize outputs, so we will continue to do research for our remaining two gardens, which have different surroundings and growing conditions than Crystal Court. We plan on scheduling a few more meetings with Joey in the coming weeks to complete the last two crop plans with inputs and guidance from her. We can use our experience working on the Crystal Court crop plan to help us stay on track and fixate on what’s important when designing the remaining crop plans. Additionally, meeting with Joey will give us an opportunity to gain more insight on how the urban farms provide value and benefits to the West End, especially as the growing season nears and preparations begin. At the end of the term, our group will be partaking in the preparation of the gardens ourselves, which will give us an inside perspective on the physical work that goes into preparing urban farm plots.


Upcoming Objectives

We are planning on visiting the Gordon Neighbourhood House during our final Flexible Learning Session on March 6th to continue working on the crop plans. We hope to complete the crop plans for the remaining two locations (Jervis & Nicola plots). We also plan on visiting some of the community gardens to harvest some winter crops and begin preparing the plots for the upcoming growing season.



As a result of our moment of significance, we have shifted our focus for our CBEL project. That is, developing the crop plans themselves in order to improve community food security rather than trying to integrate too many food system concepts from lectures into our project, which would ultimately make our scope too broad and impractical. While working on the crop plans, our group is also gaining an understanding about the amount of thought that is required to develop a crop plan that fits within the specific conditions of each farm site, and extraneous factors such as sunlight availability, companion planting, and the amount of care needed by specific crops. We have completed our crop plan for the Crystal Court location, which is the largest and most complex location. We are looking forward to working on the remaining two crop plans with Joey’s input and hopefully getting some hands-on experience by helping to prepare the gardens ourselves for the upcoming season!


While working on this project, we’ve also started to uncover some issues of race, gender, and class that are prevalent in the food system, which we are simultaneously learning about in the course. We recognize that there is an air of privilege surrounding our project, as alternative food movements such as urban farming tend to only include the well-off middle-class people and underprivileged people are not able to partake for various reasons (Slocum, 2007). In addition, although the GNH’s food philosophy and programs intended to serve and benefit the West End community as a whole, predominantly the marginalized groups present, the reality is that some low-income individuals do not have the resources needed to be able to participate in the community garden program (Miewald & Ostry, 2014). We hope to keep these issues in mind and gain more clarity on them as the project proceeds, and to find ways to address and mend them as a group.





City of Vancouver (2012). West End: exploring the community. Retrieved from


Gibb, N., & Wittman, H. (2013). Parallel alternatives: Chinese-Canadian farmers and the Metro Vancouver local food movement. Local Environment, 18(1), 1–19.


Gordon Neighbourhood House (n.d.). Food philosophy. Retrieved from


Miewald, C., & Ostry, A. (2014). A Warm Meal and a Bed: Intersections of Housing and Food Security in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Housing Studies, 29(6), 709–729.


Slocum, R. (2007). Whiteness, space and alternative food practice. Geoforum, 38(3), 520–533.


Gordon Neighbourhood House Crop Plan Introduction


Welcome to our blog! We are a group in LFS 350 working on a Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL) project. We are super excited to begin our journey with our community partner, Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH) and help them create a crop plan for their urban farms this growing season. In this first blog post, we will introduce the individual members of our team as well as our community partner, explain our goals and objectives, and finally, provide our first impressions of the project upon visiting GNH!

Meet Group 7!

(Intros from left to right)

Tianqi Zou

Major: Food and environment

My first impression upon visiting GNH is you have to be really smart in order to maintain the running of urban farming. It is unlike conventional farming, which are mostly monoculture and therefore is easy to apply management practices. Urban farming, on the other hand, have so many limitations, therefore you have to use different strategies to maintain certain amount of yields while minimizing inputs. I feel urban farming is a place where most of sustainable methods are applied and I am really excited about it because this is the place I can apply what I have learnt in school to real practices. Hence, I believe this is a really precious opportunity for me. In addition, this urban farming belongs to the West End community, therefore it can give me a chance to view crop planting from another perspective which I might never think about before.  

Janet Li

Major: Applied Plant and Soil Sciences

I’m super stoked to be working on this community project! I am passionate about sustainable agriculture and soil health, and the Urban Farm Crop Planning project is going to be a great way for me to apply what I have learned in various courses and my time volunteering at the UBC Farm to a real farm setting. I’m also excited to get my hands dirty, working to prepare the GNH’s community garden plots for the upcoming growing season. I am not very familiar with urban farming, so I am excited to learn more about it, and what kind of role it can play in a more sustainable food system moving forward. I LOVE food, so I’m looking forward to working with the other GNH group to coordinate what crops we plan to grow that will work with their vegan meal plans. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, and being outdoors with friends.

Pablo Madrigal

Major: Marine Biology and Shark Conservation    

My background has not included an extensive course list regarding agriculture and farming, but growing up in Mexico has imprinted on me the important link between food, culture, people, and communities. I am very excited to take part in this community project because I want to learn more about the work it goes into growing food, as well as how we can apply those principles to an urban setting. This will hopefully equip people with the tools to create more urban farm spaces and have access to local sources of nutritious fruit, vegetables, and herbs. Another reason why I am excited for this is because I’ve lived in the West End since moving to Canada 8 years ago, it feels like this will have an effect on my neighbourhood that I will hopefully get to continue to see in the future. In my free time I enjoy swimming (hopefully surrounded by sharks), and cooking with friends and  family.       

Katrina Tai

Major: Food Science

Coming from a food science background, I feel that it is important to understand the foundation of how our food appears on our table. To be able to apply the knowledge I have from food science in terms of food quality and food safety, it is critical to understand the source of our food products. The Urban Farm Crop Planning Project interests me because of the farming aspect – understanding the foundation of urban agriculture and food production. It will be a great learning experience in obtaining background knowledge of urban farms, how to strategically plant the vegetables to ensure they grow, the challenges that urban farms face, and how to efficiently maximize each urban farm location in order to deliver quality products to the community.

Jamie Wang

Major: Food Science

I’ve always been super interested in learning about plants and gardening, however I haven’t had many opportunities to learn or to try my hand at gardening, as my major focuses more on the processing of food rather than its production. Therefore, I’m excited about this community project as gives me a chance to learn more about growing food in an urban setting, and also gives me a chance to give back to the community and learn more about sustainability. I’m also quite excited to coordinate with the members of the Vegan Meal Planning group in order to decide which crops would be best to grow in the summer time that would work both with the environmental conditions and with the recipes they’ll come up with.  In my spare time, I love knitting, crocheting, and baking.          

Jiatong (Vivien) Nie

Major: Food and nutritional science double major

Farming is something that has interested me a lot since I have taken the online course LFS 250 where we learned the history of agriculture, GMO food and organic farming etc but it is also something that I am not familiar with since my major mainly focuses on food processing, food safety and human nutrition. Therefore, I have always been looking for an opportunity to learn about farming, plants and soil. I am very excited to be engaged in this urban farming project and I am very confident that we as a group can help the farmers establish a crop plan with good utilization of the land and provide delicious food for people living in the community.


Community Partner Introduction


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Gordon Neighbourhood House (GNH), located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the Coast Salish Nations, is a place-based community organization that provides and supports a variety of programs and services for the West End community with missions to promote a vibrant and active neighborhood via dynamic, community-based programs and activities. GNH has a long history that can be dated back to 1942. The current location was opened in 1985 and the organization together with its community members have witnessed many important historical moments such as the second World War. The GNH has approximately 400 members each year and has also become a member unit of the Association of Neighborhood Houses of British Columbia, which is a volunteer-driven agency with goals to build healthy and engaged neighborhoods in Vancouver. (Gordon Neighborhood House, n.d.)


GNH “assumes the best intentions of people” and welcomes and respects people of all backgrounds. In order to better engage people in activities of interest, the GNH offers programs that target specific groups of people (e.g. seniors, single parents, youth, children etc.) (Gordon Neighborhood House, n.d.). Among their programs associated with food initiatives (e.g. community lunch, mobile produce market, etc.), instead of using a charity model to provide foods for the people, GNH’s food philosophy aims to enhance the understanding of food culture and strengthen the diversity and dignity of its community members. Thus, apart from receiving affordable food from the GNH, community members are able to learn and share their knowledge of healthy eating and urban farming. This results in increased food literacy and creates connections between community members and with the land they are living on. The GNH has been successful in strengthening the wonderful community in the West End, however challenges still exist, such as how to adjust their programs to reconcile the demographic changes happening in the West End.

Group Goals

As students, we really appreciate that LFS provides these Community-Based Experiential Learning (CBEL) opportunities for us, because they allow us to give back to the community while engaging with academic topics in a more applied manner. This allows us to think critically about what we learn in the classroom, as well as the non-academic community that surrounds us. We hope that our group can provide our best help to this CBEL project, and that we gain some valuable knowledge and experience from it as well.

The individuals in our group come from a variety of academic backgrounds, however after visiting the Gordon Neighbourhood House, speaking with our project coordinator, Joey, and seeing the three community gardens we will be working in, we have all found ways to bring our unique perspectives and experiences to succeed in this project. Our overarching goal for these next few months is to succeed in creating a thoughtful crop plan that addresses the needs and assets of the community. We hope that in doing so, food will become a vehicle that brings the community together. As a group, we have unique and individual assets of our own, such as knowledge from courses, volunteer work and other past experiences, and we hope to bring those to the table, as well. We hope that this project provides an opportunity for us to learn about urban farming and the specific advantages and challenges associated, as well as how urban farming can be used as a tool to increase food literacy and community food security in cities. Additionally, we hope that through the process of crop planning we can become more thoughtful, taking into account various biotic, abiotic and socioeconomic factors that influence and are influenced by what we choose to grow.

Project Objectives

Urban farming is limited by various factors that are unique to their setting when comparing to conventional agriculture. For example, the small area creates non-ideal growing conditions, the application of pesticides is not permitted, and tillage is not feasible. Hence, smart planning is required in order to maximize outputs. Cultural management of crops including choosing crops that thrive in shade, crop rotation and companion planting become even more critical in this setting. The main objective of this project is to strategically design crop plans for each of the GNH’s three community gardens to maximize crop yield and quality, while taking into account their unique environments and integrating agroecological concepts such as crop rotation and intercropping to reduce environmental impacts.

Due to the various limitations to urban farming, the system needs to be designed and managed carefully. We will use intercropping, cover cropping/mulching, and crop rotation in order to maintain soil health and water retention in the plots. Furthermore, we will choose crops based on the abiotic environment of plots (shade, temperature, moisture, etc.) Aside from environmental sustainability, the farming system also needs to be designed to fulfill the community’s purposes and ensure socioeconomic and cultural sustainability. Urban farming has the potential to build and strengthen communities. It brings people together and inspires them to be part of the food production system, increasing food literacy. It teaches people how to farm and makes healthy and fresh foods more accessible.   

First Impressions

One of the GNH’s three community gardens; shaded on 3 sides by an apartment building, but with herbs and vegetables still flourishing.

During our first visit, we had the chance to see GNH’s three urban farm plots and learn about the specific challenges each space faces. The plots are limited by various factors including unfavourable growing conditions and operational constrictions. Due to the fact that most of the plots are confined within the free space of apartment buildings, some of the plots receive insufficient sunlight, and some farming operations face challenges such as proper water usage and composting. Despite those disadvantages that are typically associated with urban farming, we were very impressed by the dedication made by GNH which has come up with various methods to plant crops wisely and sustainably in order to maximize the production while protecting the land. For example, the use of marigold to prevent aphids, retaining soil moisture and nutrition through cover crop in winter. The crops were maintained by the programmers as well as volunteers from within and outside the West End community.

GNH welcomes anyone and everyone through its doors as long they are respectful. One of the ways they aim to accomplish this is through food, by utilizing their community gardens to support events, such as community lunches, cooking workshops, and a small-scale farmers market. Through these initiatives, GNH is striving to achieve the concept of community food security whose definition is that all community residents are able to obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes self-reliance and social justice (Hamm and Bellows, 2003). Urban farming is an essential and fundamental component of the food initiatives promoted by GNH and it contributes to community food security by providing organic locally-grown vegetables which will be prepared by the GNH kitchen and shared with the community members in a healthy and economically accessible way. Hence, our goal is to support this idea by providing appropriate assistance.

As we enter into the first stage of our project, it is important for us to understand the concept of Asset-Based Community Development. All individuals have strengths that they can bring into their community as well as inherent positive aspects that benefit it (Mathie & Cunningham, 2003). This is absolutely crucial in providing effective and respectful aid. We need to acknowledge the strengths of GNH and the West End, and utilize them to their full potential. From our first impression, it seems that the GNH is an organization dedicated to serving the community through its food initiatives. We relate this concept to Ernesto Sirolli’s TED Talk, in which he discusses the often patronizing and paternalistic nature of Western aid (Sirolli, 2012). We found both of these readings to be very informative in shaping our perspective, and have already begun implementing these ideas into our process. We want to ensure that we are working with the GNH and optimizing its strengths and assets rather than working for it. Our group will emphasize the needs and assets of GNH and the West End rather than providing what we think they need or want. We will do so by engaging in conversations with the head farmer Joey, and doing more listening than speaking. Essentially, we want to understand and remember that the community is the ultimate expert in its strengths and assets, and we will make sure to prioritize its input. An example of this needs-based aid that already occured within GNH is the partnership between the community gardens and the kitchen/farmers markets, in which the gardens provide produce needed specifically  for these initiatives.


To conclude, all of us in Group 7 come from a variety of backgrounds, but hope to bring our unique opinions and assets together to create a suitable crop plant for the urban farms at GNH. By doing this, we hope to be a part of the West End community, and by working with its members, strengthen it according to the food philosophy of GNH. In addition, we want to relate what we’ve learned in LFS350 about Asset-Based Community Development to this CBEL project, and emphasize the assets and strengths of the West End rather than believe that we’re the experts.

After our first visit to GNH and the 3 urban farm plots, we were impressed by the amount of growth and potential of each location, but we also recognized some limitations and challenges surrounding urban farming. Our next steps are to look into potential crops that can be grown in these locations, research about crops that grow well together or that can provide an advantage against pests, and come up with a draft crop plan that would also complement the Vegan Meal Planning project group at GNH. In addition, we will do some actual practices to get some dirt on our hands so that our draft crop plan can be achieved in reality.  


Gordon Neighborhood House. N.d. Mandate and Vision. Retrieved from

Gordon Neighborhood House. N.d. The history of Gordon Neighborhood House. Retrieved from

Hamm, M. W., & Bellows, A. C. (2003). Community food security and nutrition educators.Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 35(1), 37-43. 10.1016/S1499-4046(06)60325-4

Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003). From clients to citizens: Asset-based community development as a strategy for community-driven development. Development in Practice, 13(5), 474-486. 10.1080/0961452032000125857

Sirolli, E. (2012, November 26) Ernesto Sirolli: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen! [Video file]. Retreived from